Despite overwhelming evidence of the economic, health and social-emotional benefits associated with receiving a quality education, domestic and global investments have flat-lined and current investments have often been ineffectively and inefficiently disbursed. The UNESCO Global Monitoring Report estimates that there is an annual financing gap of $39 billion for reaching universal pre-primary, primary and secondary education of good quality in low- and lower- middle-income countries. Mobilizing these resources will require a dramatic increase in bilateral, multilateral, private-sector and domestic support.
R4D contributes to the global push for universal basic education by applying economic analysis to the out-of-school challenge. To date, we have done this principally by estimating the economic, social and health losses associated with out-of-school children in different settings, and projecting the cost of reaching enrollment targets.
Our analyses underscore the urgency of mobilizing resources to achieve universal enrollment worldwide. For example, in Exclusion from Education, we used two statistical methods to estimate the economic loss associated with out-of-school children in 20 countries and found that in countries with the highest burden of out-of-school children, the loss is equivalent to over a year of average GDP growth.
In Financing Needs for Out-of-School Children (R4D’s chapter in UNESCO/UNICEF’s global report on out-of-school children), we present a model that provides policymakers with a picture of the cost implications of addressing out-of-school children. Most recently, in The Economic Cost of Out-of-School Children in Southeast Asia, we estimate the economic cost associated with out-of-school children in seven Southeast Asian countries.
Through our Center for Education Innovations (CEI), we also spotlight over 100 programs that are strengthening school systems to address out-of-school children, including the most marginalized and hardest to reach. For example, the joint CEI-UNICEF report Journeys to Scale offers a case study on Can’t Wait to Learn, a program that addresses the lack of access to quality education for Sudanese out-of-school seven- to nine-year-olds through the provision of open-source math learning based on Ministry of Education curricula.